Yesterday, President Mauricio Macri’s administration “moved” framed portraits of former President Néstor Kirchner and former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a great political ally of the former, from their perches in the Casa Rosada.
“Just like Menem’s and Bolocco’s picture frames were taken down, so are the Kirchners’ frames being taken down,” a government official nonchalantly told press.
Except removing images that carry such political weight is hardly the same as merely rearranging furniture.
In fact, as Renewal Front’s (FR) Sergio Massa said, this is a loaded move.
“To me this is an unnecessary provocation. If we want to build a unified Argentine, we need to draw a line and start looking for things that unify us rather than divide us,” he said on the television program Intratables.
Massa, who was one of Macri’s opponents in last year’s presidential race, has become one of his strongest allies among the opposition, as most recently demonstrated by his accompanying Macri to the Davos World Economic Forum (where they were congratulated by US Vice President Joe Biden for “bridging the political divide” so admirably.)
“There are more important things: employment, insecurity, prices… these are subjects that worry people and which we must deal with, not focus on irritating and provoking each other, one side against the other,” Massa continued.
Macri campaigned and appears to have won (by a tiny margin) partly on a promise to “unite” the country and abandon the polarizing rhetoric that his predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, had championed, a clear “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.” Stamping out every last remaining trace of the former administration is hardly in line with that promise, though. And this deepening political divide is not just circumscribed to symbolic gestures (taking down frames, cleansing the presidential office of Cristina’s specter [I’m only half kidding]), they’re all too apparent in the street, where thousands of Argentines have been protesting over massive public sector layoffs, what many see as Macri’s unbridled use of executive power through emergency decrees (DNUs), etc.
Moreover, many may remember another instance in which important portraits were taken down by a President: on March 24, 2004, Néstor Kirchner had the framed images of dictators Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, military leaders responsible for the torture, death and disappearance of an estimated 30,000 individuals during the last military dictatorship, removed from the Colegio Militar in a symbolic departure from that sordid past.
So do you really want to compete with that kind of symbolic picture removal, Mac?